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The Third Day of Christmas: Philly Steak Sandwiches

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Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

I haven’t posted in the last two weeks.  Life got busy, as I’m sure yours did too.  It was wonderfully busy and no time was left for blogging.  We even saved some of our giving for today, since last week didn’t include enough hours for everything.  I’m glad that John reminded me that we had twelve whole days of Christmas to finish everything; otherwise, I might not have made it through last week.  I do have a couple of meals from last week that I still want to share, but I’ll have to catch up another day.

Last week was packed with finishing Christmas presents and completing our last few bits of our homeschool year.  We stick to a different schedule than most, but it works for us.  Now we have three months break to have a change of pace.

The kids and my nephews helped make a Santa Hat Party Mix for gifts, but we didn’t get to try it because most of the ingredients are on our naughty food list.  Sometimes it’s nice to live vicariously through others.  We did try one batch of a homemade allergy friendly almond bark for my sister’s birthday.  It did taste good, but it was only solid in the refrigerator, so the recipe needs tweaking before we share it.

Santa Hat Mix
I also got to finish sewing three dolls.  One was for Snuggle Bunny.  Another was for our only niece, and the third was for my youngest cousin.  Making these dolls was very special for me, because my grandmother started them years ago, but never finished them.  The dolls were mostly done, but the dresses were only cut out and needed assembling.   One Christmas many years ago, Grandma made me one of these pillowcase dolls.  Mine has a lavender dress and is quite well loved.  She even traveled with me to Girl Scout Camp one summer and has my name in Sharpie marker on the back hem of her dress.  Now she spends most of her time in Snuggle Bunny’s doll carriage, just as Grandma would have liked.  Today she has a new sister to share the ride.   Hopefully one day these three dolls will show the wear of time and love.  It would be a shame if they weather the years with a layer of dust instead of experiencing the messy love of some sweet little girls.  Oh, and what of the one in the middle with the extra color in her dress?  That is the product of Little Man’s handy work.  He quietly got his hands on my sewing scissors and started the remodeling process.  After a little rummaging through my quilting scraps, I’m happy with the results.  Though if I ever make a modified skirt again, I’d rather it happen before I gather the skirt and attach it to the bodice.

Pillowcase Dolls
The weekend before the Feast of the Nativity is when we celebrated with our families.  Saturday was for my family, and Sunday after church was for John’s family.  It was great family time and my children were thoroughly spoiled by grandparents, aunts, and uncles.   Meals were provided by the hosts and they all did a wonderful job with our holiday fare.  My mother-in-law surprised us with a treat from a local gluten free bakery.  My mother and I made Better Balls with almond butter.  We omitted the rice puffs and rolled the balls in unsweetened coconut instead of dipping them in chocolate, but every last one was gone in no time.  I used to make a peanut and dairy laden version of these as a child, so it was a very nostalgic dessert and oh so easy to make.

Christmas Day found us at Church in the morning.  I think celebrating the feast at Church on Christmas is one of my favorite Orthodox Traditions.  It really is wonderful to focus on the true meaning of this holiday with our Church family before we break the fast and open our family presents.  After Church we completed our last Advent reading before we opened presents.

Christmas Day

This year I took meat laden meal requests from each family member for celebrating the feast.  I promised to make them all sometime during the twelve days of Christmas.  Snuggle Bunny’s request was California Rolls.  That meal was lunch on Christmas day for many reasons.  One being that we were headed out to a Christmas party in the afternoon, and it was a meal that could be prepared in the allotted time.  The second reason is because it was a meal that John is adept at preparing, so I got a day off from cooking.

John also made pancakes and bacon for yesterday’s breakfast.  I assembled them into the festive arrangement you see below.  The eyes are carob chips, the buttons are raisins, the mouth is banana, and the snow is coconut oil.

Buster’s meal request was Honey-Mustard Chicken Tenders which easily used the last of the bacon.  This time I served it with roasted broccoli, oven fries, and yellow squash.

Today’s lunch was John’s request.  He doesn’t often request dairy, so I was happy to buy him a few slices of provolone from the deli.  When I buy cheese, it is often by the slice–just enough for John.  This time we had some leftover soft goat cheese from John’s mom’s dinner, so those of us who can tolerate small doses of goats dairy indulged for this one meal.  I was planning to make cashew sauce, but opted out at the last minute when I remembered the goat cheese.

I discovered that the steak purchased this time was much thicker than I originally realized, so I chopped it rather than shaving it as I normally do.  The bun is an onion dinner roll from Local Oven.  They still have egg in them, so Little Man and I cheated a little bit.  It’s all for a good cause and we don’t do it often, so today I think it was worth the convenience and the flavor.  Tomorrow may be another story.

I also would have liked to add mushrooms to this sandwich, but I forgot until I was cooking.

Philly Steak Sandwiches
about 1.5 lb thin steak, lightly salted on both sides
1 large onion, thinly slice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
cheese or substitute (optional)
condiments of your choosing

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add the oil, onion, salt, and garlic to the pan.  Saute until the onions caramelize.  Reduce heat as necessary to keep the onions from burning.

Remove the onions from the pan and raise the heat back to medium.  Sear the steak on both sides until the steak is cooked to your liking.  Times will vary depending on the thickness of your steak.

Slice the steak thinly and toss in the pan with the onions to warm them and mix well with the meat.  Serve on buns with your choice of toppings.

Merry Christmas!



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Last year sometime we were reading The Swiss Family Robinson aloud.  It was a great story for a seven year old boy who loved to hear about adventure and survival on a tropical island.  We read with the Internet close at hand and searched for images and videos that helped the children build a picture of the story in their mind. One account in the book told of the family cooking and eating the interior pulp of a sago palm.  This time the Internet search led us to try a whole new recipe.  It is easy to make; is already gluten and dairy free; and is now a favorite in our house.

True sago is hard to find.  Sometimes you can find it in ethnic grocery stores, but I found this one online.  Though the sources I have read recommend using large tapioca pearls as a western substitute.  Both options are sold with the name “sabudana.”  If the ingredients are not written on the package, assume that it is tapioca.  The companies that provide sago are generally proud enough to declare it on the package.  

I tried using tapioca pearls this week for the first time.  That was the testing that I needed to do before sharing this recipe.  Sabudana is one of the few recipes that I make in a smaller batch because the leftovers don’t keep well.  The whole dish gets gummy after being chilled in the refrigerator.

On two different evenings I made one batch with sago and another with tapioca so we could compare the results.  I have to say, that while tapioca is a reasonable substitute, it must be soaked longer than the sago to produce the same result.  Even then about half of my tapioca didn’t quite soak to the middle.  I personally prefer the sago.

Like poha, sabudana is traditionally a breakfast in India, but we like to have it for dinner.   There are many versions of sabudana; my version is a blend of two I found without the peppers of course.  One has a video and the other has better written directions.  I like to combine the two because the end result provides a heartier dinner on a fasting day.  Fasting or no, I’ve got little bellies to keep satisfied.

The curry leaves are also hard to find outside of an ethnic super market, but they are well worth the search.  They have nothing to do with curry powder, so don’t worry if you’re not a fan of curries.  These have a lovely aroma and really make this dish complete.  Buster loves to hold the package and smell the leaves all the way home.

Urad wash are a type of small bean or lentil that have been split and cleaned.  They can also be found at an ethnic grocery store.

Sago pearls are also traditionally used to make a simple pudding with coconut milk that is similar to tapioca pudding.  I also saw them used in this recipe recently.  We may have to do some experimenting.



2 cups sago pearls (or tapioca)
, about a 13-14 oz package
1/4 Cup Urad Wash
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2-3 Tbsp safflower oil
1-2 tsp salt, to taste
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2-3 small potatoes, small diced in 1/4 inch cubes
1-2 sprigs curry leaves, to taste
1/2 cup cashews, blended in the blender until roughly chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

Before you start, be sure to measure and chop all of the ingredients as previously listed.  You won’t have time to chop as you go because you need to constantly stir while this is cooking or the potatoes and sago will stick to your pan and burn.

Soak sago for 3 hours or more until you can see they have become soft. Once they are soft drain out water and rinse until the water comes out mostly clear.  The rinsing is important to keep the sago from sticking together while cooking.  While the instructions from the original recipe says to drain the sago and lay it out on a dry cloth to remove excess moisture,  I simply strain and rinse the sago in my fine mesh colander. Then I allow it to sit in the colander placed back in the empty soaking bowl to continue draining until I’ve cooked the potatoes.

In your wok or deep skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add urad wash, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, onions, and salt.  Saute for 2-3 minutes until the onions are shiny and beginning to soften.  Stir constantly.

Lower the heat to medium.  Add the curry leaves, chopped potato and fry them until they are cooked, about 10-12 minutes. Stir constantly.

Once cooked add the sago and cashews. Keep mixing so that it does not become sticky.  When the sago is evenly mixed, reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and allow to steam 2 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro and serve.


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This week has been busier than I’d ever imagined.  Every time I sit down to write, something else prioritizes itself above my blog.  I’m not complaining.  Everything is right when I prioritize my family above my blog.  I’ve backlogged a few recipes that need more testing before sharing.  I’m glad I planned repeat recipes this week, too.  Tonight we had Black Rice Salad. Later this week I’ve planned Adzuki and Kabocha Miso Stew to use my last kabocha of the season.  All in all it was a great week to try a little something new.

This week we have been contemplating those less fortunate than us as plan our alms giving for the fast.  A friend of mine shared this article, “How to Feed Your Family From a Food Bank.”  It shares insights into those who are trying to make ends meet and sometimes need a little help to do so.  Some of her shopping and cooking tips are ones I use to help keep our grocery bill down.

We have also been reading through What the World Eats all week.  The kids love to flip through and look at all the pictures.  Not only does it give us a peek into food from around the world, but it also includes recipes.  I love when I stumble across cultural recipes that are already gluten and dairy free.  It is very exciting to find that you can try something new and still be able to eat it in a form that is actually original.  Nevertheless, I still had to omit the green chiles, but it was the only ingredient that had to go.

Poha is a flattened rice from India.  Think rolled oats, but with rice instead.  Though the book didn’t differentiate, there are two kinds of poha: thick and thin.  With a little more research I discovered that thick poha is what you want for this recipe.  Of course I discovered that after I purchased the thin variety from a local Indian grocery store.  I even found a package that declares “No Allergens Present.”  Just so you know, the package I purchased at the Indian grocery was less than half the price of the one that is linked in this post.

I wouldn’t normally go out for just two special ingredients, but a monthly appointment had us going past the bazar closest to us, and I was already stopping for another item.  It was an ingredient for that recipe that needs testing, so I’ll tell you more about it later.   That made my detour two aisles instead of a thirty minute drive.  The kids are far more persuasive when a scenario works out so well.

I also had not heard of one of the garnishes recommended in the recipe.  Sev is a fried chickpea noodle.  It is sold in chip bags as a snack that comes in many flavors.  Sadly all of the commercial ones have paprika or cayenne in the ingredients, so Buster can’t have them.  I got a bag to decide if they were worth trying to make at home.  The answer was a resounding, “Yum!”  Now I need one of these so Buster can have some too.


Another interesting tidbit is that this savory dish is traditionally a breakfast in India, but I would gladly eat it any time of day.  Also, be sure you prep everything before you start soaking the poha.  You’ll need your undivided attention for the cooking process.   There are many variations of poha.  Some variations are sweeter with raisins and nuts.  Others use legumes.  I can’t wait to use the rest of the bag.

This recipe made exactly enough for my family.  I’m going to have to double and triple the recipe as the boys grow.

Allergy Friendly Poha

2 cups thick poha
1 Tbsp safflower oil
1 tsp mustard seed
1/2 onion, sliced thin
1 med potato, diced in 1/4 inch cubes
1/2 tsp sugar
pinch turmeric
1 tsp salt

Optional garnishes: chopped cilantro, shredded unsweetened coconut, sev

Soak poha in a bowl for about five minutes.  Then drain and let rest until ready to use.

While poha is soaking, heat the oil on medium-high in your wok or deep skillet.  Add the mustard seeds and stir for one minute.

Add the potato and onions.  Saute for 5-10 minutes, until the potatoes are turning golden and are cooked through.  Stir constantly.

Add the soaked poha, sugar, salt, and turmeric.  Stir fry for two minutes and stir well.  Cover the pan and remove from the heat for two minutes.

Serve and garnish as desired.

Biscuits and Gravy

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We love bacon, but we don’t eat it often.  Anything that is over three dollars a pound is generally considered a delicacy at our house.  Everyone gets excited when there is bacon at breakfast.

First thing make a good sized batch of your favorite biscuits.  We use the one out of this cookbook, but I would love to find a good recipe using only whole grains with no added starches.  Any recommendations?

Next heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  When it is hot, cook the bacon left over from last night to your desired crispness.  Drain the bacon on paper towels, and reserve the grease in the pan.  Use the bacon grease to make cream gravy.

Biscuits and Gravy

Cream Gravy

Reserved bacon grease from above, still hot
1/2 cup garbanzo or millet flour
1/2 tsp salt, to taste
2-3 cups of your favorite milk (I use almond or coconut)

With the burner still on, Whisk the flour and salt into the hot oil for about one minute.  It should turn a lovely golden brown color.

Continue whisking as you add the milk.  Bring to a low boil and add more milk to get the gravy to your desired consistency.  Adjust salt to taste.  Add pepper if your family can partake.

Spoon over biscuits and serve with cooked bacon, eggs, and fruit as desired.

Breakfast Sausage

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After posting our new Pumpkin Pancake recipe last week, I got several questions about what I served with them in the picture.  One plate has eggs;  the other has breakfast sausage.  Both are cooked with sauteed kale.  I find that sauteed greens go well with breakfast, and it squeezes in a few extra vitamins in the process.  It is easy to wilt the greens in a skillet and then scramble the eggs right into the mix.  However, two of us cannot have eggs, so I keep a supply of bulk browned breakfast sausage in the freezer and split the greens between the two applications.

Since peppers are on our combined list of allergies, I can’t simply buy breakfast sausage ready mixed from the store.  I mix my own.  I received this recipe as part of a wedding gift from the woman who is now my godmother.  Elisabeth gave me permission to share it with you all along with my modifications.  The original recipe had a bit of cayenne pepper (black pepper would be good if you want something less spicy) and left out the garlic and onion.  Use whatever combination strikes you fancy.

You can form these into patties and cook them in a skillet.  There’s no right or wrong there.  I personally cook it loose, freeze it, and take out just what I need each time.

If you choose turkey over pork, make sure you get at least the 85/15 choice in the tube.  The extra fat makes for a better sausage.  Just know if you choose a lower fat content, the sausage will be much drier than premixed options.  No judgement from me.  The choice is yours.

Pumpkin Pancakes

Breakfast Sausage

1/2 cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons sage
1 Tablespoon dried minced onion
1 Tablespoon savory
2 tsp garlic powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 to 2  teaspoons salt (to taste)
5 Pounds ground turkey or pork

Mix the syrup and spices together in a measuring cup.

Add to the ground meat and mix thoroughly.

Cook as desired. Freeze the extra.

Vegan Pumpkin Buckwheat Pancakes

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I think breakfast is the meal that causes those with food allergies to struggle the most.  Dairy, eggs, wheat, and corn all factor prominently in American breakfast foods.  Replacing products with their gluten free counterparts can be expensive.  Trying new recipes can be frustrating when the experiment fails.  The cost of the specialty ingredients you’ve wasted is depressing.  You start wondering if breakfast is optional.  Then one day you find the right recipe.

Pancakes are a treat at our house.  We have been making Sue Gregg’s blender pancakes for years using cultured coconut milk in place of yogurt.  I say “we,”  but really all the pancake making props go to John.  He is the expert pancake chef here.  Sue uses simple ingredients, but you have to plan ahead to make her pancakes.  There are no spur of the moment pancake plans with this recipe.  You have to soak the brown rice overnight in the blender.  The recipe is good, and she will give it to you as a free sample if you fill out this form.

However, I’ve been seeing fall pumpkin pancake recipes on Pinterest.  Even my friend Katherine posted her Great Pumpkin Pancakes last week.  Even her lovely, simple recipe won’t work for my family.  I can’t have eggs or oats, not even gluten free oats.  I even looked around the internet for a recipe that I thought would work for our family.  I found nothing that I was happy with, so I sighed and thought to myself that I probably wouldn’t get pumpkin pancakes this year.

Then my friend, Laura, pinned this recipe for Chocolate Buckwheat Pancakes the next day.  The recipe is small and we had everything we needed to try them.  John substituted carob powder for the cocoa and used 2 T sugar for the stevia.  The recipe was just the right size for a snack for all five of us.  They were amazing!  Don’t get me wrong, I like Sue’s recipe, but we may never go back.  They were so good that John offered to make them again for bedtime snack that same day.  John, who tolerates our gluten free baking, because he must, was actually craving them again the same day.

I proposed my little experiment the next day.  What if we come up with a pumpkin pancake recipe that we can have?   John has made more pancakes this week than in the last six months put together.  I hope you like them just as much as we do.

I made this recipe using 2 cups of pumpkin puree.  I freeze my puree into that measurement for my other pumpkin recipes.  One 15-oz can of pumpkin is 1 3/4 cups of puree.  If you use a can, just add a few extra tablespoons of water or nondairy milk.

Vegan Pumpkin Buckwheat Pancakes
(Yields 35-40 silver dollar pancakes, enough for one breakfast and a small snack for our family)
3 cups buckwheat flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
2 cups pumpkin puree (or one  15-oz can plus a few Tbsp milk)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp maple syrup
3 cups nondairy milk of your choice
Oil for griddle

In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients.  In another bowl combine the wet ingredients.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well blended.

Heat your griddle or cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Brush with oil.

Pour pancakes onto hot griddle.  John does want me to warn you that both buckwheat pancake recipes have thicker batter than you’re used to using for pancakes.  Just make them silver dollar size (about 3 inches in diameter) and spread them quickly using a ladle or small measuring cup.

When the pancakes bubble around the edges, flip and complete the cooking on the other side.

Serve with maple syrup and enjoy.

You can serve with eggs, bacon, sausage, and or sauteed veggies, but then breakfast might not be vegan anymore.